Serving Sweetness at Chicago's Sweet Mandy B's

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Eve M. Tai
Pie heaven.
Sweet Mandy B's (1208 West Webster Ave., Chicago) reminds you of a kitchen from the 1920's, perhaps one where your grandmother might have baked trays and tins full of cupcakes and cookies. After creating what she calls Old Fashioned Desserts for friends and family, owner Cindy Levine decided to share the love with her Lincoln Park neighborhood by opening Sweet Mandy B's. The shop serves up the whole good-ole-days gestalt--counters lined with beadboard, walls painted in Easter-egg pastels, and ceramic stands piled high with pie.

The whole thing could be an exercise in faux retro, except that the baked goods are the real deal. Devotees who stop by after work actually order ahead of time in case there's a run on their red velvet cupcakes or chocolate cream pies of choice. On the day of my visit, a trio of fans crowded the register as they awaited their special orders. They were regulars, only instead of baristas calling out their espresso drinks, clerks called out their cakes.

Much as I love a good snickerdoodle, the mixed berry pie called my name. It's a treat anytime, but even more so in October. Chicago is enjoying a surprise warm spell, and it seemed a fine time to indulge in a last slice of summer. Fat wedges of pie are the norm at Mandy B's, with strawberries and blueberries cascading outside of the crust. The berries take center stage here--they're whole and intact and don't fall prey to becoming a pectined jellied mass in the filling. It's like eating berries straight from the vine. And the crust is hearty as the Midwest, with just enough shortening to satisfy butter cravings.

Sweet Mandy B's rarely sees a quiet spell. And that's no surprise. Customers here can find the comfort of nostalgia as much as they can satisfy their hankering for classic baked goods.

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